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The premature retirement of Republican Thomas J. Ahern as Amherst supervisor last May left the town's voters with more than his job to fill in next Tuesday's special off-year election.

It also created a vacancy on the Town Board when its senior member, GOP Council Member Lynn Millane, decided to forego the final year in her term to accept appointment as supervisor for the rest of this year.

The matchup to fill Mrs. Millane's old seat pits Thomas A. Loughran, a Republican appointed to the seat July 1, against Edward F. McKee, a Democrat back for another try after a losing effort in 1993.

The full four-year Town Board term will be on the ballot next November.

Loughran, 45, a Snyder restaurateur, is a former town Planning Board member and a close friend and political associate of William A. Pauly, the GOP's town supervisor candidate.

McKee, 52, assistant controller for accounting at Columbus McKinnon Corp., has long been active in civic affairs, especially those involving youth. When he ran for the Town Board in 1993, Republicans swept all three seats.

McKee advocates "protecting and nurturing our neighborhoods," better fiscal oversight and control at Town Hall, and a town government more in step with the wishes of the people.

McKee believes the town should create a financial review board to take advantage of its many resident professionals in the finance and management fields.

Town government has a habit of spending too freely and resisting changing times by growing or maintaining the status quo instead of downsizing its work force and payroll, according to McKee.

As a business executive, McKee asserts he knows the importance of growth and development. "But that doesn't mean we have to give the store away at the expense of working families, single parents and senior citizens," he said.

"I'm a hands-on person. I think I've demonstrated that by taking my campaign door to door, while my opponent uses billboards and mailings.

"In all my travels, I haven't heard from one person who said that Tommy (Loughran) pushed a door bell or stood on a corner to reach out and meet the people," McKee said.

In his profession, "I've come up through the ranks of management. I've dealt with people from the factory floor, right on up to CEOs," McKee told The Buffalo News.

After seven years on the Planning Board, controversy found Loughran last spring when the local GOP endorsed him for the vacant Town Board seat along with Council Member Jane S. Woodward for supervisor.

Wary of Loughran's long friendship with Pauly, her GOP primary opponent, Mrs. Woodward wouldn't support Loughran for Mrs. Millane's seat after she became supervisor. It took several weeks and a Democrat -- Council Member Peggy Santillo -- to give Loughran's candidacy a four-month head start on the Town Board.

Since joining the Town Board, on controversial issues, Loughran often has been a member of a voting bloc that also includes another Pauly supporter, GOP Council Member Bill Kindel, and two Democrats, Mrs. Santillo and Council Member Michael G. McGuire.

"I've got an open mind. I'm just trying to do my job, listening to and working with the entire Town Board. People don't care about partisan politics; they care about their elected officials getting the job done," Loughran said.

The lifelong Amherst resident said that "holding the line on taxes is the most important thing to me. The growth issue also seems to be important. The question isn't whether Amherst is going to be developed, but how well planned it will be," Loughran told The News.

About proposals for a master plan, Loughran noted the town has always had one and that the Planning Board uses it extensively in its land-use recommendations. However, "it's just a guideline; the Town Board (which has never adopted a master plan) needs flexibility," he said.

Loughran said the fledgling concept of shared services between the town and its school districts to hold down taxes "is very exciting and of great interest to me."

"If we can make it successful, it could be a model for the whole state," he said.

Loughran said he brings a small-businessman's perspective to the Town Board. "I'm the only businessman sitting on that board, someone who knows what it is to meet a payroll for 18 years, create jobs, that sort of thing.

"I think people look at the private sector and see the downsizing and the efficiencies taking place and they expect government to follow suit," Loughran said.

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